Better to be an icon than a person in need

Today is Maundy Thursday, a day in church tradition when the heads of the church and Royal_Maundy_1867.jpgheads of state would give money to the poor. It was done in the most humiliating way, though I’m not sure if those doing the deliberately thought of it that way. They would throw the money into the crowd and the people would then throw themselves on the coins and fight for it. Remember these people were starving and had no welfare system. But to those doing the giving it reinforced the idea of “the poor” being uncouth and unruly.

Now the Queen hands out “maundy money” in a calm and dignified way to a chosen few.queen giving maundy money Now we don’t even let those who could do with a bit of extra cash even go through the humiliation of having money thrown at them.  But I think that is because we hide the poor even more. It is harder to see who is on benefit and who isn’t, but the media makes sure it highlights those receiving state aid as undeserving, scroungers, uncouth and unruly!!

This week a might icon of history, religion, culture and tourism has fallen. There were NOTREDAME firesome very brave fire-fighters who worked hard to save it. People have been donating thousands for its rebuild. This same week, if you listen hard enough, the flooded areas of Africa are in dire need of food and medical supplies but no one is donating thousands for them. In fact many parts of Africa, Asia, Central and Southern America, and even parts of Europe are having an on-going struggle with severe poverty issues, yet money for these is raised in dribs and drabs. Is it better to be an icon than a person in need?

 

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Royal Wedding

prince-harry-meghan-markle-wedding-tI have been pondering all this wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan and it struck me that their wedding was not much different from weddings from Medieval times. Anyone who was anyone would be invited, which would include people famous in their field. Royalty liked to be with the movers and shakers unless they had been banished from court. So having actors and musicians turn up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding is no different from having Geoffrey Chaucer turn up. Actors were not seen in the same light back then but there would be more than just royalty.

The common people would also want to be a part of it. Any excuse to indulge. So there would be lots of people lining the streets and cheering. There would be places where prod-the-banquet-of-henry-viii-in-york-placethese common people could then go and eat, drink and be merry. Very similar.

As for who Harry has married. Yes in days of old princes would be expected to marry who they were told to but that was to strengthen the kingdom. Many would have someone who would not make a good alliance as a lover and mother of their children. Some may then go on to marry their lover once the throne had enough heirs that their marriage would make no difference.

We no longer have a monarchy that needs to make political alliances to hold on to power. Our royal family doesn’t hold any real power at all.  Our royal family now mixes in different circles to those of the Middle Ages. The demarcations between the upper class and lower class are not as divided as it was. I do think too that our top actors, top pop stars, and top celebs are the elite of today when titled people, knights, lords, kings, princes, were back then.

Both Harry and William have been mixing in what appears to be a different circle to how we think royalty should behave but that, I believe, is because we still see a Victorian view. When in fact there many of them were related to each other. With travel and Spiral Staircase Winding Down in Historic Buildingchanges in lifestyle, our young royal family are actually doing very similar to their ancestors of old. William’s children won’t die of some unknown death because most of the things young princes use to die of back in the 14-16th Century can now be treated very easily with modern medicine. Harry does not need to give heirs to the throne in case his brother’s die out. Neither of our princes needs to keep the crown secure.

Things have not changed as much as we think they have!

(NB – these are my thoughts from what I remember of history. I wanted to get a post out. I have not managed to check them out properly yet. Wish I had more time 😦  )

It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

bible-promises-smallOh my! How often have I heard that? I have studied Reformation History too so as well as hearing it in churches since I “became a Christian” 24 years ago I have also read it. I did get in to a bit of a discussion about it at a group we meet with on a Thursday evening. What I wanted was a “where does it say this so clearly?” I know I have been totally guilty of it. I still go in repentance to God regarding a relationship I had with a young man who had started seeing a girl. He was a Christian, she was seeking, he wanted to date her, I firmly told him know and clearly showed him passages in the Bible that made this relationship wrong. What happened? He stopped attending the group that I was a leader of. He did start dating the girl. And I do not know what happened from then because he moved away. I now feel that what I said was naive and not properly thought through.

But yesterday it all came to me very clearly how dangerous this can be – using the Bible to clearly tell us things. I had the privilege of being able to pray with a girl who was running prayer-810x250away from being forced into an arranged marriage. As I have shown before I am very good at making presumptions so I had decided she was Muslim, etc. Oh No! She is a Christian. Her parents are Christians. In fact she said her father was a missionary. Her family are from Taiwan though she was brought up in Canada. For her parents the Bible clearly says that they are to choose a bride for their child. In fact she even saw this as correct and proper. What she was running away from was the fact that she did not want to get married to this man and so her family were trying to coerce her into the relationship. I am presuming they could clearly see that it was ok to coerce their daughter into marrying a man of their choosing. Maybe like many of the things I read in the times of the Reformation, they were doing it for what they saw as the right reasons. (And I googled “Christian arranged marriages” and there are a lot of sites out there who are very pro arranged marriage!!)

Often we try as modern “enlightened” Christians to distance ourselves from the Crusades, for the burnings of both Catholic and Protestants during the Reformation, of Christians having slaves, by saying that they did not believe properly or they weren’t proper Christians – whatever that might mean. But actually if one reads the writings of the time these people could quote the Bible and say that ‘the Bible clearly says …’

the-mystery-of-godWe need to beware when we say the Bible clearly says that in fact there are many things in there that it does not clearly say. Much of this is to do with us not have the original texts in front of us, and we never will. Some of it is because words change over time. And some of it, I think, is because God is a mystery, and wants to remain that way. I believe He is seeking relationship with us, which means we must converse with Him. Ok there are some people who have been married a long time who can say “my spouse would clearly say …” but even at times they can be taken by surprise!

Let the mystery of God reign within us and not keep wanting to have clear answers.

Presumptions

Wow! Have I been learning about presumptions of late! As you know we are renting rooms via Airbnb which is a very open site which says encourages people to give a profile about themselves so both host and guest sort of know what they are letting themselves into. patentlawpic858Well when we had a Malaysian girl staying for a month and working at the local hospital I had decided she must be a nurse. No she was a trainee doctor and a fascinating person too. Just last week we had a French guy book in for him and his girlfriend so I just presumed they were both from France. No she was from Russia and he was studying in UK. Again a mistake made. Then our latest guest, I could not quite make out the name but for some reason had decided that we had a man staying. Imagine my surprise when I met this lovely woman.

I am never sure how I make these presumptions but I know we all do. We have boxes we put people in and for some reason that is how we view the world. I am sure some of it is because it makes life easier in the broad sense. But I also think this is where we can make so many mistakes. I have often had people say to me that I am nice for a Christian or that I don’t behave like a Christian. I remember once when living in Belfast and going to a lovely church that was really into reaching out to the people who lived in the more deprived part, which was actually where we lived, one of the ladies being supported saying that she couldn’t believe I was “church” as she said. Why? It was her presumptions. I couldn’t be a Christian, be “church”, if I lived where she lived, spoke like she did, let my kid play with hers maybe. But that was something that was holding her back, and many like her from getting to know God.

I also think in this run up to this EU referendum we have to down to personalities and that euthen gives rise to presumptions. If Boris supports Leave then it will look like “x” but if Patrick Stewart supports Remain then it will look like “y”. Why do we think that? Because our preconceived ideas cannot cope with certain people being in certain camps and then us joining with them.

How do we get beyond that? I think we need to be aware of it. So I need to be aware when I make a presumption about one of our guests that I have done that. I need to look at why I my first thought for a Malaysian girl coming here to work in a hospital was that she must be a nurse, that I couldn’t imagine a French person going out with anyone other than another French person, and that somehow the wording on things make me decide gender.

Just recently Airbnb has been pulled up because of prejudices from its hosts – which actually is a silly thing to pull the company up for. It is basically a forum to help people find cheaper accommodation not an employer. And also its host rating system is based on those who stay not on those who don’t. There are a few people I would have liked to have given 1 stars to who never got back to me, or who stayed with us but did not do reviews for us, but that is not how the system works. Ok so its not foolproof but the ratings do work ap22304414966_wide-555ee6d2536f14d3ced3468bd4730e9843676057-s400-c85for when people stay so … But the point is we do not know where the prejudices from these hosts who have refused come from. Perhaps when they see that someone is of a different colour, race, religion, sexual orientation they have some presumption of the character of that person. Should legislation force them to have these people in their homes? I don’t think so. We cannot change people’s hearts by forcing them. I know if I was forced to have someone in my home I did not feel comfortable with for whatever reason I would not behave well. I have had one or two that I have wondered about beforehand but have let them stay and all has been fine. But that was my choice not a law telling me I had to.

So how do we change people’s preconceived ideas? We can’t. As with everything we can only change our own. But then we can share with others in a kind way. We are part of a Bible study group that have their own presumptions about things. We cannot tell them they are wrong but we can say about those we know who are different colour, race, religion or sexual orientation to us, but also we have to accept these people as lovely people and not be prejudice against them. In fact I think this is one of the hardest things to deal with – not being prejudiced against people who have prejudices we disagree with. If we do not love the gun toting right wing fundamental then how can they ever change?

My presumptions could lead to prejudices which could lead to me not allowing people into mayaangelou101310my home, not let me speak to people in a supportive way, and I need to be aware of that. The only person I can really change is me but the only way I can do that is by being aware.

Blasphemy

eleanor-of-aquitaine-hI have been reading lots of historic novels set in early Norman/Plantagenet times. This was a time when everyone believed God was sovereign and much of what went on was whether it was “God’s will” or not. But all the way through the characters will say things like “Christ’s teeth”, “Holy Mother of God” and other phrases that invoke God or Jesus in a way that would not be acceptable to many Christians now. In fact only the other day someone was saying to me that you could tell whether someone was really following God as to whether they “used God’s name in vain” was the phrase used.

Now I am not advocating the use of “Oh my God” etc in speech but I was wondering when we talk of blaspheming what is really meant. Again it seems to be a word that has changed meaning, or rather developed a meaning different from it’s dictionary definition.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for (a) God(s), to religious or holy persons or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy as a religious crime.

So one could say using God’s name as an expletive is showing contempt or lack of blasphemyreverence but were those Medieval characters doing that? I don’t think they were. In fact the Blasphemy Act of 1650 was only brought in to be used to persecute Catholics during the time of William of Orange and in fact for most of its time was only used to “keep Catholics in their place”. It had nothing to do with saying “Oh God” when either upset or happy about something. In fact this morning I was chatting with a fellow dog walker and he was using “Oh God” as a form of emphasising what he was saying. He wasn’t being disrespectful or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. He just wanted to make a point stronger.

Previous to the act of 1650 there were other acts but each of them appear to be used to keep some other group in their place and to be able to punish them under the law whether they were Jews or other forms of Christians that the dominant Christian group didn’t like. So it appears to me that the Blasphemy laws were not kind things, not really loving, and I still think God is love.

no-such-thing-as-blasphemy-650x487
which is what it appears from the reasons the laws were put in place. 

So do I agree with the others saying God’s name to make a point? I don’t think I do. But then I also don’t agree with people swearing to make a point. Do I think people are being disrespectful when they use God’s name to make a point? No I don’t. I think it is a way of speech that has been about for hundreds of years. Do I like it? No I don’t. But the question I keep asking myself is why do I not like it? And I keep coming back to the fact that the Christian culture I have been part of for nearly 25 years told me it was wrong and so it has become part of what I think. Do I sometimes use God’s name in a way that isn’t evangelising or praying? Yes I do especially when I get angry. Why? Because sometimes there aren’t enough expressive words to deal with it. So like the Medieval people I have been reading about sometimes I do need to make a point deeper and sometimes that is all there is. Also the other day when there was the most amazing sunset I did also use God’s name to express myself.

And in following on from the Stephen Fry quote I do wonder sometimes if, as with the laws in put in place over the years whether it was from fear rather than having to defend God. I

grace-of-god-300x168
giving people what they don’t deserve because He’s God. Can we do that too?

do hope God is big enough to deal with any number of people who use His name not in the way He would prefer. I do also wonder how often He takes it literally and as it says in the Bible, both in Old and New Testament, that those who call on His name He will hear and answer.

In my opinion blasphemy is about disrespecting other people’s belief systems whether Christian of any flavour, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, pagan or whatever. And as I finish I wonder, with things hotting up about this EU voting whether we could all deal with it in a way that does not disrespect other people’s belief systems?